The Chinese-Vietnamese Rapper/ Songwriter Spence Lee Honors his Identity & Serves his Community Through Music

The rising New Jersey rapper and songwriter Spence Lee has been honing his skills since adolescence, sharpening his pen and building an enviable network of friends and advocates through his open-minded, collaborative approach to making music. Originally rapping as Shotta Spence, the 27-year-old has embraced his birth name as a further nod to his Chinese and Vietnamese heritage and the platform he has as part of a growing but still relatively small Asian foothold in hip-hop. There’s a preternatural cool to Spence Lee, the kind that makes him seem instantly at home on a stage, on a runway, or in front of the camera.

Though Lee’s name may be new to many, his goals for his debut project speak to his veteran poise and belief in the power of his art. “Something on there got to go Platinum,” he says. “In this world of eight billion people, there’s at least a million people out there who, if you play my music for them, they’ll be like, ‘Yo, I’m a fan.’”

What’s not to love about Spence Lee? He got bars, creative vision and he’s foine. His self expression is part playful, part cut-throat. What’s more his fashion scene is killer. With new music dropping this year, audiences should buckle up for the journey Spence Lee will embark on. Everything from the music production, to the clothes, to his vocal delivery, to the way he honors his cultural background really sets Spence Lee apart from his contemporaries. Combining elements of trap. Hip-Hop/Rap, it’s hard not to vibe to his energy and many sensibilities

Lee says that making “Arriba” in 2020—it’s still his most streamed song to date, with more than 6 million plays on Spotify alone—was the moment he figured out his artistic identity. “That’s when I was like, ‘Okay, I’m making music that I want to make.’ I’m getting into that version of myself where I’m doing melodies, having witty, meaningful bars. It’s representative of my values and the song, and the music was going to make you move.”

On his 2022 single “On God,” Lee raps about feeling his late friend’s presence while he records: “Looked back, I got a little spooked / ’Cause I thought I seen Chino in the booth.” Chino was a promising rapper in their shared hometown and a role model as an Asian American in hip-hop. The two recorded together in the mid-2000s, but after Chino was killed in 2012 during an attempted robbery, Lee was inspired to push ahead even more doggedly.

“That’s kind of like what put the spark in me, losing my homie, because I’ve always felt like he would be the one in my position now, an Asian American artist really putting on, really grew up in the culture,” he says. “When I saw Chino, I was like, ‘Yo, I can do this shit.’ And then when he passed away, I was like, ‘Yo, I got to do this shit. I gotta take that over.’”

On God Music Video –>

Despite the loss of his friend, Spence Lee continues to be molded by his life experiences and cultural exposures. Through his relationship with 88rising, Lee has built a deeper connection with his Asian roots, playing festivals in Indonesia and the Philippines and spending time in Vietnam. “I just want to serve the community, serve my people, and serve the culture and do stuff that’s meaningful, do shit that’s going to stir the pot up a little bit,” he says. There is more to come from Spence Lee’s growth and candid self expression.

Upcoming Shows

Playing Head in the clouds in NYC in May

Going on tour with Masiwei in May


When did you fall in love with hip hop

I fell in love with hip hop in the early 2000s when my brother and sister put me on to biggie, pac, nas and then 50 cent.

Top 5 rappers of all time 

Top 5 rappers (in no order):

Kanye, Future, Drake, 2pac, 50 cent

Growing up in jersey how did the east coast shape your idea of music

Growing up in NJ I was listening to east-coast artists like the fugees, wu-tang clan, dipset, dmx, 50 cent. We were heavy into jersey club music from 2008-2012 and all the parties would be focused on dancing to jersey club mixes. I was also heavily influenced by R&B, Soul, Reggae and Dancehall, which is what made me my music melody driven. 

What made you make the change from Shotta Spence to Spence Lee

Name change: I want to use my real name and represent my family name. The music is bigger and I’ve evolved my sound. 

How did your collab and co sign come together with Mike will made-it & 88 rising 

I met Mike WiLL Made-it in 2014 in NYC. My hometown friend Max was directing a Rae Sremmurd video and asked me to help style it. Mike saw my potential as a creative and he’s been rocking with me as a brother and mentor ever since. He introduced me to Sean from 88 and we understood eachothers vision and mission to bridge cultures through art and music.

Tell us about the upcoming record with songs like Angie (Anger)” and songs like “God Is Love

The upcoming project has many unique sounds to match the complexity of my human experience and the various emotions I go through. It’s melody-driven with honest topics, witty bars. The song Angie personifies Anger as a girl named Angie and the evolution of my relationship with her. The melodies and production have alternative and R&B influence.

God is Love is about self-love and the importance of loving who God made us naturally. The song has dancehall vibes mixed with R&B. There are also soulful songs like “Spend my Days” and hard-hitting rap songs like “Foundation”

Who would be your ideal musical collaboration

My ideal musical collaboration right now would be Future, Stevie Wonder, Charlie Wilson or Vybz Kartel

What your favorite fashion trend at the moments since you are an ex model your style seems cool

My favorite trend at the moment is flared pants and baggier pants

One thing your parents have instilled in you since a young age 

One thing my parents have instilled in me was to practice gratitude through prayer and action

What can we expect next for 2023

In 2023 we going on tour in May, dropping this classic album, doing more shows and releasing clothes and doing more collabs

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